On a visit to Washington, D.C. to discuss, among other things, the global war on terrorism, Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that authorities in his home nation would work with America’s FBI to secure their country from Islamic State recruitment.
According to Malaysia’s The Star, Dr Ahmad Zahid announced that Malaysia would officially work with American authorities to identify threats in the nation, recruitment projects, and other activities organized by the Islamic State. “The ministry and FBI will combat this menace together. This will be a continuous cooperation on both sides that has been forged since 1975,” he explained to the newspaper, adding in later statements that such cooperation would need to occur in almost every facet of law enforcement.
“This cooperation will be extended to preventing trans-border crime through a memorandum of understanding, which was signed in 2012 in Putrajaya,” Zahid said at an event in D.C. this week.
The announcement of a new collaboration with the FBI follows signs of increasingly successful recruitment activity on the part of the Islamic State in the southeast Asian country. According to one report in Free Malaysia Today, authorities monitoring social media use in the country have noticed a spike in the number of profiles expressing open support for the Islamic State.
According to the paper, Malaysian political scientist Ahmad El Mohammady testified that “the prevalence of IS supporters in Malaysia was evident in personal Facebook pages and the distribution of ISIS-branded T-shirts” in a conference on the matter this week:
“I have seen the postings getting more than 5,000 likes, and there are bound to be some who will be taken up by what is said,” he said. “It has yet to reach the point where they are taking up arms, but it doesn’t mean we should not be concerned.”
The Islamic State has used Malaysia as fertile ground for recruitment of both men and women, given its high Muslim population. The country’s prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, sparked outrage months ago when attempting to excite a crowd at an event for his political party, calling attention to the Islamic State group by telling partisans of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) Party that they must be “brave” like Islamic State terrorists. “When someone dares to fight to their death, they can even defeat a much bigger team… the group ISIL with the strength of just 1,300 people, can defeat an Iraqi army of 30,000 soldiers, until four, five generals with three, four stars run for their lives, jump out the window at night,” he told the crowd. “Why? Because they are afraid of those who are brave.”
Despite the Prime Minister’s comment, which he later recanted, the government of Malaysia under him has vowed to work against the terrorist group. Many experts are warning that, due to Malaysia’s friendly relationship with the United States, the Islamic State may target the country further now that President Obama has authorized airstrikes against the group in Syria. Speaking to the Malaysia Star, terrorism expert Professor Mohd Kamarulnizam Abdullah warned that the airstrikes had the potential to galvanize extremists inclined toward terrorist activity: “The airstrikes have the opposite effect here… making them (the sympathisers) hate the US and its allies even more… Many more will be attracted to want to go to Syria as a result.”